Longform | History

The volume “Wars, divisions, integration” disregards the 1,133 children who were killed or disappeared during the war of ‘98-’99

By - 15.10.2020


Initiated in 1999, the “Joint History Project” publication sought to provide materials to history teachers in the Balkans that would challenge an ethnocentric teaching of the past. Published by the NGO Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) based in Thessaloniki, Greece, the project aimed to encourage critical thinking and debate as part of long-term reconciliation in the Balkans.

The project resulted in the production of five volumes, starting with medieval Balkan history and concluding with contemporary history.

This series of articles offers a critique about individual volumes of the project, analyzing how important historical Albanian events were portrayed and which of them were not portrayed at all. Furthermore, this series discusses how they should have been portrayed, based on the work of international authors such as Noel Malcolm, Oliver Schmitt, Peter Bartl and others who cover developments and events in Kosovo throughout various historical periods.

Such an examination is especially important considering that during the completion of the project, CDRSEE maintained close working relationships with all education ministries in the region and enjoyed  the support of a total of 25 international donors, including the EU. Moreover, the project employed historians from the entire region, including Kosovo.

Follow this link to read the first piece on the Ottoman Period.

Follow this link to read the second piece on “Nations and States in Southeast Europe.”

Follow this link to read the third piece on “The Balkan Wars.”

Follow this link to read the fourth piece on “The Cold War.”

A critique on the “Wars, divisions, integration” volume.

The sixth and final volume starts with the end of the Cold War, continuing with the establishment of political parties, the organizing of free elections, proclamations of independence, the national symbols, currencies and flags in the Balkans. The volume further deals with armed conflicts primarily within the Yugoslav federation, the international military interventions, the negotiations and the peace agreements, the trials and tribunals, and the commemorations of the wars. Obviously, economic, social, cultural and other developments of the Southeast European countries during the last decade of the previous century and the first decade of this century are also dealt with.


The first chapter of the book, “Collapse and Construction 1990-1992,” is divided into four subchapters; Kosovo is included only in the third subchapter, titled “Proclamations of Independence.” Here, the Constitutional Declaration on the Republic of Kosovo within Yugoslavia that was adopted by Albanian deputies in the Assembly of Kosovo on July 2, 1990, elected in December, 1989. Out of 128 Albanian deputies, 114 gathered in front of the Kosovo Assembly building and, because the police officers did not allow them to enter, they declared Kosovo an independent and equal entity within the Yugoslav Federation, right there by the entrance of the building 

Toward the end of the introduction to the second chapter, ‘The Disintegration of Yugoslavia,” there is a brief mention of the fact that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Nowhere in the whole volume is there anything said on the declaration of independence, not even the 2010 decision of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law. 

The first subchapter, entitled “The Path to Disintegration,” also gives a very superficial account of the Serbian repression of Kosovo Albanians, focusing only on the beginning of the ‘90s when Albanians were expelled from their jobs, with a brief mention of an “increase in police violence and discrimination in schools.” Meanwhile, the presentation of Kosovo’s “parallel system” that operated during the 1990s in a variety of areas, focuses only on the field of education.

Subchapters two, three and four of this chapter address the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the fifth subchapter, “The Wars of 1998-2001,” is almost entirely devoted to the Kosovo war. The text states that after the creation of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), clashes began to mount, which, together with pressure from the international community, brought about the Rambouillet negotiations in France in 1999 that served to seek a peace agreement

Nowhere is there a mention of the fact that one of the main factors that triggered the armed clashes, and then the international community’s pressure in the Rambouillet negotiations, were the crimes of the Serbian and Yugoslav police and military forces against innocent Albanian civilians. It is further stated in this subchapter that the KLA attacks resulted in the mass emigration of the Serb population, which led to the reinforcement of the Serbian and Yugoslav police and military forces, and that Serb paramilitary units began operating in Kosovo, leading to the Albanian population fleeing or being expelled en masse.

Starting from this premise, all of the massacres perpetrated by the Serbian and Yugoslav forces are controversial, because the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities have denied that any massacre was ever committed in Kosovo.

As a result of the way the text is constructed, the implication is that paramilitary Serbian units were responsible for the exodus of Albanians, and not the Serbian and Yugoslav police and military forces. It is also stated that the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, in 1999 was undertaken as “Serbian security forces were allegedly carrying out ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians.” The use of the word allegation is questionable, as even at the time there was documented evidence that the Yugoslav and Serbian police and military forces were committing massacres, killings, rape, destruction, and other crimes. Moreover, there is detailed mention in the text of the material damage caused by the NATO bombing, but there is absolutely nothing on the material damage caused by the Serbian and Yugoslav police and military forces. Likewise, there is nothing on rapes committed in Kosovo. 

This period of war is illustrated in this subchapter with a total of three photographs, one showing five or six tractors loaded with Albanian refugees, and the other two showing damage from the NATO bombings in Serbia. The Reçak massacre on January 15, 1999, which saw 45 killed, is the only massacre in Kosovo presented in this volume, but under the title “The Račak Case.” The introductory text of this chapter states that “opinions about the incident are completely contrary,” as various international institutions consider it a massacre, while the Yugoslav authorities have claimed that all those killed were members of the KLA. Starting from this premise, all of the massacres perpetrated by the Serbian and Yugoslav forces are controversial, because the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities have denied that any massacre was ever committed in Kosovo. 

The textbook does not cover any other massacres committed in Kosovo, not even the Meja Massacre of April 1999, where 376 innocent Kosovo Albanian civilians were killed, or the Krusha e Madhe Massacre of March 1999, where more than 240 innocent Kosovo Albanian civilians were killed. The names of the village of Reçak and other Kosovar villages and cities also appear in their Serbian forms throughout the book; they should be in both official languages of Kosovo.

Why not specify who exactly expelled the numerous refugees created by the Kosovo war?

The sixth subchapter, “Atrocities and ethnic cleansing,” has only one sentence on Kosovo, citing data from the Belgrade- and Prishtina-based NGO Humanitarian Law Center that 13,421 people were killed during the conflict in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000, of which “10,533 were Albanians; 2,238 were Serbs; 126 were Roma and 100 were Bosniaks or from another ethnic group.” It fails to state, however, which formations committed these killings.

In the seventh subchapter, “Forced Migration and Refugees,” it is stated that “it is believed that 862,979 Albanians in total, or over 80% of the population as a whole, were expelled from Kosovo during the NATO bombing.” Why should something like this only be “believed” after such a precise figure of those expelled is given, not to mention the fact that this data was obtained from the UNHCR? By comparison, when it comes to the departure of Serbs, the wording is: “According to official UNHCR figures, over 100,000 Serbs have left Kosovo after the Serbian police and Yugoslav army withdrew.” Also, why was it not specified in this subchapter who exactly expelled the numerous refugees created by the Kosovo war? 

This subchapter is illustrated with two photographs of Albanian refugees in Macedonia. One shows about 20 refugees from Kosovo, accompanied by a policeman who seems very friendly to them. Meanwhile, the picture illustrating the expulsion of Serbs from Croatia during Operation Storm in 1995 is far more representative, not only in size, but especially in content, as it shows the long column of thousands of Serb refugees fleeing Croatia with tractors and trucks. The other photo shows the employees of the Doctors Without Borders organization helping the Kosovo refugees, who are, as the text underneath the photo puts it, “fleeing the atrocities and aerial bombardments.”

The eighth subchapter, “Children and Young People During the War,” provides only a short briefing dated March 22, 1999 on the interruption of teaching in Kosovo schools and the reduction of lectures and exams at the University of Prishtina. Since the subchapter is dedicated to children and young people, there should at least be a mention of the figure provided by the Humanitarian Law Center of the 1,133 children killed or still missing from the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

The ninth subchapter, “Destroying Cultural Heritage,” contains a map presenting the destruction of 39 Serbian Orthodox churches after the war in Kosovo (mainly in 2004), without mentioning that the same churches and monasteries were subsequently rebuilt by the taxes of the citizens of Kosovo. While there is a brief mention of the more than 200 mosques and large number of traditional Albanian houses destroyed by the Serbian army during the war in the introduction to the subchapter, there is no further elucidation on the figure, and it is not stated that these were rebuilt with the help of various international humanitarian organizations.

The tenth subchapter, “Against the War,” presents the calls, letters, petitions, strikes and protests by various Yugoslav personalities and organizations against the wars in Yugoslavia. The chapter contains no call, letter, petition, strike or protest of any person or organization from Kosovo against the war in Kosovo, although there were many at the time. 

The eleventh subchapter, “The War of the Journalists,” presents only fragments from a comment by the Executive Director of the Swiss Press Club, journalist Guy Mettan, published on April 24, 1999 on the NATO aggression and U.S. propaganda. The last subchapter “International and Balkan Reactions” presents a letter signed from the Bulgarian intellectuals in favor of NATO’s intervention, a concert in Athens against NATO’s intervention, a report from the Romanian media on the facilitations this country had offered NATO to fly over and bomb Serbia, as well as some fragments taken from a comment by U.S. former foreign secretary Henry Kissinger, selecting only his disinclination over the Rambouillet Agreement and the NATO intervention.

International involvement — a selective explication

Chapter three, “International Actors, Local Issues,” contains a subchapter on international military intervention that also talks about peace negotiations and agreements. It presents two of the most important documents from 1999 in relation to Kosovo: The Rambouillet Agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which authorized international civil and military presence.

Concerning the Rambouillet Agreement, the only excerpts of this Agreement published in this chapter are three of its articles on the immunity, rights and privileges of NATO’s military presence throughout the territory of the FRY. All three of these articles were used by Serbian official policy at the time to oppose the signing of the Rambouillet Agreement. A similar approach is seemingly applied to Resolution 1244, as the excerpts that the authors of this book dwell on are the ones which only represent Serbian gains and those repeated today by official Serbian policy: “Resolution 1244 guarantees the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the FRY over Kosovo,”; ’Resolution 1244 provides for broad autonomy for Kosovo under the FRY”; “Resolution 1244 enables a number of Serbian security forces to return to Kosovo.”

In relation to Kosovo, only the indictment for crimes against humanity against the President of the FRY Slobodan Milošević is mentioned.

This part should include excerpts from Resolution 1244, which specify that the future political status of Kosovo needs to be defined by taking into account the Rambouillet Agreement, of which the last paragraph, says that Kosovo’s future status will be defined by taking into account the will of the people, should have been included. Moreover, when presenting this resolution, the authors of this book refer to Kosovo under the Serbian designation “Kosovo and Metohija,” which was made official by Slobodan Milošević’s regime. It is particularly the use of this designation that reinforces the impression that the chapters on Kosovo in this volume appear to lack objectivity.

The third chapter contains a subchapter on “Persecution, Courts and Tribunals,” which contains a table with the names of all those convicted and acquitted by the International Hague Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. In relation to Kosovo, only the indictment for crimes against humanity against the President of the FRY Slobodan Milošević is mentioned.

Nowhere is it mentioned that in February 2009 and in January 2014 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia convicted the following people for war crimes in Kosovo: Nikola Sainović, Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia (22 years in prison), Dragoljub Ojdanić, Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army (15 years in prison), Nebojša Pavković, Commander of the Third Battalion of the Yugoslav Army (22 years in prison), Vladimir Lazarević, Commander of the Prishtina Corps of the Yugoslav Army (14 years in prison), Sreten Lukić, Commander of Serbian Police in Kosovo (20 years in prison). Likewise, it should not be overlooked that the same tribunal, after the war crimes trials against Serbs in Kosovo, tried and acquitted KLA commanders Ramush Haradinaj, Fatmir Limaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Ibrahimaj and sentenced soldier Haradin Balaj (13 years in prison).

Shortcomings in the documentation of collective memory

In the fourth chapter “Economy and Society,” none of the five subchapters mentions Kosovo. However, Kosovo could be included in each of the subchapters, especially those entitled “Demography and migration,” which could have made mention of the numerous migrations of Kosovo Albanians during the 1990s as a result of the Serbian regime, and the subchapter “Privatization and De-industrialization,” which could have included a section on the savage privatization by public and social enterprises that happened in post-war Kosovo.

The same neglect of Kosovo continues in Chapter Five, entitled “Culture,” which is made up of three subchapters. The only exception here is the first subchapter, “New Technologies and Communication,” where there is a short but exact mention of the use of satellite antennas in Kosovo between 1992 and 1999, that Kosovo Albanians could use to view the two-hour Albanian language program that Albanian National Television (TVSh) was broadcasting from Tirana. The second subchapter, “Religion” and the third “Cinema, Theater and Music,” contain absolutely nothing about Kosovo.

The sixth and final chapter, “Ways of Remembering,” features a subchapter on the 1990 wars in Yugoslavia, entitled “Remembering the Last Wars.” All that is presented in this subchapter on the war in Kosovo are two monuments dedicated to the NATO military intervention, both erected in Belgrade. The first monument is dedicated to the bombing of the Serbian state-run television channel RTS, which features the names of the 16 RTS employees who were killed and a photograph of the bombed building. The second monument is dedicated to the 79 children killed by NATO attacks, centered on the sculpture of 3-year-old girl Milica Rakić. 

This subchapter is not illustrated by any monuments erected to commemorate Albanians killed by Serb forces in Kosovo, nor the Serbs killed by KLA members, but focuses solely on the Serbs killed by NATO, without a text explaining that they were victims of collateral damage. The authors of this publication should at least have cited a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled “Killing civilians during NATO air campaign,” which says that during the bombing campaign against the FRY, NATO killed 528 innocent civilians, including 318 Albanians killed in Kosovo.

A summary of exclusions

This volume very superficially presents the Serbian repression against Kosovo Albanians during the 1990s, focusing only on the discharge of Albanians from their jobs. Regarding the Kosovo “parallel system,” which during the 1990s functioned in a number of fields, only that of education is presented.

As far as the Kosovo war and the related events go, apart from there being no mention that it was the crimes committed by the Serbian forces against Albanian civilians that provoked the armed clashes, it is claimed that the KLA attacks were the ones that led to the emigration of the Serb population, which then resulted in reinforcements of the Serb forces in Kosovo, and that afterwards Serb paramilitary units also started operating, which is why the Albanian population fled or was expelled en masse. It is also claimed that the NATO bombings of the FRY were undertaken because it was alleged that Serbian security forces were carrying out ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians.

The only massacre presented is Reçak, it being described as controversial. Regarding the deportations and exodus of Kosovo Albanians, we read that it is believed that over 80% of the entire Kosovar population was expelled from Kosovo during the NATO bombings, but we do not learn who it was who expelled the refugees during the war. Figures are given for the killed, but there is no explanation as to which formations carried out the killings.

There is a single map presenting the destruction of 39 Serbian Orthodox churches after the Kosovo war. Only the beginning of the same subchapter briefly mentions the 200 mosques and traditional houses destroyed during the Kosovo war by Serbian forces. The material damage caused by the NATO attacks is presented in detail, but there is absolutely nothing about the material damage caused by the Serbian forces.

The war is illustrated with two photos of the damage caused from NATO bombings over Serbia, and two photos of the Kosovo Albanian refugees in Macedonia, one showing about 20 Kosovo refugees, and the other one showing humanitarian workers helping the refugees from Kosovo who, the accompanying line claims were “fleeing the atrocities and aerial bombardments.”

There are calls, letters, petitions and protests against the wars in Yugoslavia presented, but none of those shown are from Kosovo, although there were many of them. Commentary briefs on “NATO aggression and US propaganda,” disinclination over the Rambouillet Agreement and NATO intervention, as well as footage from concerts against NATO intervention dominate the narrative.

The two most important documents of 1999 for Kosovo, namely the Rambouillet Agreement and the UN Resolution 1244, are presented only with those articles that were and are used in official Serbian politics. Moreover, when presenting the UN resolution, the authors refer to Kosovo with the Serbian name “Kosovo and Metohija.”

With regard to the ways the Kosovo war is commemorated, two monuments are presented, both erected in Belgrade to commemorate the Serbian victims of NATO, and no single monument to remember the Albanians killed by the Serb forces in Kosovo, or the Serbs killed by the KLA members. Of those convicted or acquitted by The Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, only the indictment for crimes against humanity against FRY President Milošević is mentioned, and not the convictions of other key Serbian political, military and police leaders, nor the acquittal of KLA commanders.

The volume very briefly mentions that in February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia and nowhere in the whole volume is there any mention regarding the decision of the International Court of Justice about this declaration. Moreover, some chapters and subchapters contain absolutely nothing about Kosovo.

This series of articles were written by the author as part of a project titled “An analysis of alternative textbooks of CDRSEE” by the ADMOVERE organization, with financial support by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, which operates via the Swiss Embassy in Prishtina, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor.

Feature image: Excerpt from the book “Teaching Modern Southeast European History” and edited by K2.0.